NEW YORK — Five months after finalizing the acquisition of 67.5 percent of Nickel for about $6 million, Inter Parfums isn’t looking to take any dramatic turns with the U.S.-based business of the French men’s brand. But that’s not to say a focused growth strategy within the spa industry, limits on the brand’s expansion in the specialty store arena and consumer education aren’t high on the agenda.

The majority acquisition delivered Inter Parfums into a new venue — spas — and gave the company a men’s only business. Andy Clarke, vice president of sales for Inter Parfums Inc., noted during a recent interview, “Men’s skin care is really the last part of beauty with growth potential. That was the strategy behind acquiring Nickel.” Clarke was recently appointed president of the brand.

Nickel generated about $6 million in global sales for the year ended in March, according to industry sources, up 50 percent. In the U.S., the brand is carried in 40 or so retail stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York and Proffitt’s, as well as roughly 250 spas.

Nickel’s founder, Philippe Dumont, remains based in Paris. As the brand’s worldwide president, Dumont continues to have creative influence in both global product development and brand strategy. Besides France and the U.S. — Nickel’s strongest markets — the brand has presences in the U.K., Germany, Belgium and Portugal.

Clarke believes Nickel can educate male consumers about skin care via a hands-on learning approach — either by having men in Nickel’s two U.S. spas, its retail distribution network or any one of a number of yet-to-be launched “Nickel rooms” within the brand’s existing spa base.

“We closed some accounts and are now aggressively going after partners in the spa business,” said Clarke, “especially at the back bar.” While a target number of spa doors has not been established, Clarke envisions opening rooms within Nickel’s spa distribution network and dedicating the spaces to Nickel-driven men’s services.

These Nickel rooms would use Nickel products at the back bar; include aesthetician training on those products; be decorated in the brand’s signature blue or gray color motifs, and in some cases prominently display the Nickel nameplate. Clarke plans to approach Nickel’s entire spa base this fall with the plan. He believes even spas with two or three treatment rooms, let alone more space, could be receptive due to a burgeoning demographic segment of image-conscious male consumers in the marketplace.There are also plans in place to make Nickel’s spa at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue here into a full-service salon this fall. It will offer full hair services — with the pending installation of four styling chairs — in addition to the space’s existing spa treatments. In addition to the Manhattan spa and another in San Francisco, Clarke indicated a third freestanding Nickel spa could be a reality on the West Coast within the next two years.

He also wants to begin offering services like facials in the brand’s wholesale doors, in stores where dedicating more area and events to men’s skin care would make sense to the retailer.

“All of us should be working toward one goal — education,” Clarke said of the players in the men’s grooming industry. “The psyche of men is that now [grooming] is more than just aftershave. Once more men understand the need to take care of themselves, [market] growth will occur. We’re on the crest of a wave.”

— Matthew W. Evans

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